Discovering the work of the very young Portuguese designer André Teoman takes you to a world of fantasy that could easily be inspired by the furniture of Alice´s Adventures in Wonderland. His experience over several years in the world of theatre and puppeteering lives on in many of his creations and adds a touch of irreverence and humour that would be difficult to understand without knowledge of that background. His furniture, lights, wall lamps and ceramic pieces are reminiscent of the same insolence that the now renowned Spanish designer Jaime Hayón has been working into the majority of his projects since the start of his career.
André, a native of the small town of Viana do Castelo, close to the Galician border, and of Turkish origins on his mother´s side, greatly appreciates the manual work that goes into the craft of many of the artisans that he avails of to create his pieces. Those small details of care and dedication embody many of the secrets to his work. This effort has already been recognised with several international prizes such as the young designer award at the 2014 Frankfurt furniture fair or the prize his studio recently won as one the big “influencers” at the moment.
During his initial years, André collaborated with luxury Portuguese brands such as Boco do Lobo and Kobet, where he developed some of his first important pieces, such as the Newton table and Hypnotic lamp. In 2015 he opened his own studio in order to begin a career that has been recognised by connoisseurs and critics. The first pieces that he designed for the market confirmed his great talent as a designer and marked the starting point of a path for turning a young and enthusiastic brand into one of the most important benchmarks in current Portuguese design.
1. Have you been surprised with your own success?
It is the product of a lot of work and a real passion to do what I do well, in a coherent way. Clearly, luck also plays an important role, but without the hard work to back it up, luck is useless. We have to be really clear about the incentives in order to attain what we believe in, and never give in.
2. I imagine that working for already renowned brands was a great learning experience for deciding to set up your own studio so soon?
That is definitely the case, above all, because being in contact with brands such as Boca do Lobo, Kobet and Brabbu offers a sense of security. However, it is very important to be somebody that wants to learn about everything. I love all forms of creativity and I like to learn and find out about everything. The support of my mother is also an extremely important factor, she always nurtured that curiosity in me since childhood.
3. Was it very difficult for you to leave behind the security you had?
During the two years I spent working for those brands, I gave body and soul to them. I learned a lot about working with big producers. However, the time came when I had to change and grow professionally. Right now I can develop my personal passions a lot more with my own brand, I am like a single father facing a lot of situations by himself. With the brands, which are another of my passions, it is like I was the mother and had to look for suitable fathers in order to make quality products.
4. Do the prizes you have attained help to strengthen confidence in your work?
They are important, especially the first ones. It offers you a sense of personal security to see your name endorsed through good work and a great producer, although they are not a guarantee of sales for the product. It is a sign that we are on the right path.
5. Was it hard to set up the André Teoman brand?
At the start it was the same feeling you get when your father throws you into the swimming pool with armbands on. It was a drastic change because I stopped being creator and designer and took over the entire process behind the brand: tracking production, looking after sales, finding clients…but I am really satisfied. It has been a spectacular experience and you have to learn to survive, and even keep a smile on your face when you are most stressed.
6. Your designs cover both complex and simple projects. Where do you feel most comfortable?
I aim to be a highly creative and emotional studio, more so than having great technical resources or being too innovative. I place great importance on the emotional and functional value of each piece I create.
7. However, your aesthetic, apart from the colours on some ceramics, is not very Portuguese…
I do not have very defined specific roots. I have always been open minded to all kinds of influences, perhaps because of my origins, but I do of course have Portuguese roots. Above all, in the production methods, which I want to keep local. I want to produce all of my projects in Portugal.
8. You have said that you admire Marcel Wanders and Jaime Hayón. Do you feel that your work is influenced by them?
Everyone dedicated to the creative world is like a sponge and each person absorbs what they are passionate about and most identify with. Then, each of us are uniquely creative, shaping our own tastes and personal sensibility.
9. I cannot deny the fact that your ceramics are reminiscent of some Hayón products…
And some by Vista Alegre, Bosa or Maria Rubinje, Laurent Craste, Jeff Koons. I had been thinking about the Zoo collection for a long time and I wanted to change the ceramics and glass. The idea was to create an object that went from being merely decorative to having a useful purpose. It is a project that puts into practice the essence of the industrial thinking of design, and it optimises the components of a single object with a simple and vibrant aesthetic.
10. What importance do materials have in your work?
I normally ask my suppliers for samples before creating any piece and I study them thoroughly to ensure that they resemble the sketches as much as possible. It is very important to know how materials behave and to know how they can age. I like the ones that age with dignity.
Photos: André Teoman
This article is also available in Español